Is defending Ukraine a “vital” U.S. interest? Or should Washington instead focus on internal crises, such as immigration? The issue sharply divides Republicans between isolationist presidential candidates and warring senators.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s remarks, who called for putting “the defense of our own homeland” ahead of “a war abroad,” shed a harsh light on the rifts within the conservative party.

“The United States has many vital interests, such as ensuring the security of our borders,” said the rising star of the hard right, who flirts very openly with a presidential candidacy in 2024.

“Engaging further in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not part” of these interests, he asserted.

The remarks immediately roused the Republican leadership in the Senate, which has mobilized with Democrats over the past year to release more than $110 billion in congressional aid for Kyiv.

“When an American official tells an adversary what he will NOT do in a conflict, he is displaying a position of weakness,” influential Senator Lindsey Graham tackled on Twitter Tuesday.

The elected official from South Carolina, who had called for the Russian president to be “taken down”, accused all those who do not fear a “victory” for Vladimir Putin, of being “seriously mistaken on one of the clearest issues in the world”.

In short: a Russian victory in Ukraine could open a boulevard for Chinese President Xi Jinping in his whims around Taiwan, he fears.

Already in January, this senator — yet very close to Donald Trump — was full of praise for the “formidable” position adopted by the Democrats, united on Ukraine — as a snub to the convulsions of his own left.

A position shared by the powerful leader of the Senate Republicans Mitch McConnell, who visited the Ukrainian capital in May 2022 and reinforced with recent statements the most Atlanticist positions in Congress.

But contrary to that of Donald Trump, candidate for 2024, who repeats over and over that the conflict between Russia and Ukraine would never have happened if he was still in power.

“If I were president, this terrible war would end in 24 hours or less,” he said Monday.

The former tenant of the White House also urged Brussels to “strengthen its financial aid” to Kiev, believing that it was more up to the European Union than to the United States to finance the opposition to Russia.

Can these bickering among Republicans have any bearing on the flow of military, economic, and humanitarian aid that Washington provides to kyiv?

To pass, each of the gigantic envelopes planned for Ukraine must be voted on in the Senate — in the hands of the Democrats — and in the House of Representatives.

However, since the beginning of January, the lower house has come under the control of the Republicans.

His new “Speaker” Kevin McCarthy — elected in pain after compromises with the Trumpist fringe of his parliamentary group — has already indicated that he will not approve any “blank check” for Ukraine.

And has so far refused invitations from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to go to kyiv to “form an opinion” on the conflict.

15/03/2023 16:42:54 –         Washington (AFP) –         © 2023 AFP